Batak Magic staff from Northern Sumatra
This wonderful sculpture comes from the Batak, a very important group living in Northern Sumatra, and numbering about six million people.
Before 1860, Batak society was ruled by these priest-musicians called Datu. One of their symbols of office is their staffs. This is a top of a long staff, which was a meter and fifty long, and it represents a person riding an interesting figure, called the Singa. The Singa is a composite creature created by the Batak, that you see everywhere, which is a mixture of the horse, the dragon, and the serpent. On top you have a classic Batak figure, with a strong torso, an angular face, an elaborate coiffure made out of horse hair, feathers and all tide up with fabric.
Now who is represented by this image? It could be a deity, it could be a chief who owned the staff or it could be the Datu, the priest himself who carved it. The figure has a wonderful shiny patina, which comes from rubbing with both palma oil, eggs and animal blood. This staff were used for two purposes: one to protect against the evil spirits, or attacks by other priests, Secondly to help heal from dangerous diseases, and also to locate something that you lost, or to help you for a new venture. These were very precious objects and they were passed on from one generation of Datu to the other, and kept in a very special place.